Thursday photo prompt – Cracked #writephoto
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I sat in court, early 2018, listening to the verdict, “Self-defense.” remembering the exact moment it all started…and ended.
It was 1975, I was a 24 years old woman with a 1, 3 and 5 year old. My 3rd child, Millie, didn’t come out quite right. Breach birth, they called it, feet first and blue as a robin’s egg.
Monty, my oldest, came out an hour after labor started. They said it was unnatural. Best baby any mother could want. Easy going, rarely cried, and has an even temper to this day. Muriel, the middle child, was a bit harder.
But Millie? Damn if it didn’t take her 2 days from the first labor pain until the tug on her legs forcing her out of the womb. And a temper? I’ve never seen a child that hard to placate.
My husband was no help. After Millie’s birth, he’d go from work to the bar and show up at home so drunk all he could do was pass out on the bed. He hooked up with a shapely young thing 6 months before my mom died and pronounced, “It’s all your fault.”
I asked if I’d made him put the whiskey to his lips and bed a woman with a 100 word vocabulary. He’d looked at Millie and said, “I told you to get your tubes tied after the 2nd one.”
“I told you to get a vasectomy if you didn’t want any more,” I’d replied.
That’s when he hit me with the real reason he chose an imbecile over a woman with a brain, “You’re as big as a house. You’re no fun anymore.”
I was a size 8, and smart enough to know he wasn’t talking about my dress size. The answer to his accusation was obvious. “You should’ve bought a blowup doll instead of a vagina surrounded by meat.”
We were living in a 3 bedroom trailer at the time, and Mom lived alone in a 2 story home. I welcomed a chance to get out of the trailer park, and she welcomed the company.
My ex-husband soon found out that alimony and child support left him with about $300 a month. Back then, a guy could move to another state, work for cash, and there wasn’t any way to make him pay.
It took 3 months for the divorce, and 2 months for my ex to leave his ditzy girlfriend to disappear into the bowels of another state. A month after that, my mom died from a stroke, leaving me $500,000 via a life insurance policy.
I paid off what little was left of the mortgage, gave myself an allowance each month, and put the kids in day care so I could learn to be a legal secretary. By the time my kids were 3, 5, and 7, I came to terms with another reality. There was no place in the work force for a woman with 3 kids in 1977 America.
I had $400,000 left, with $200,000 in 10 year CD’s. If I continued living off $2000 a month, I could afford to stay home with my kids and look for a job in 9 years. It sounded like a great plan. Until I started feeling down a lot and my monthly “friend” went from using a tampon a day for 3 days to 3 tampons and a sanitary napkin for the first of a 7 day rampage. I began to feel as if all the energy in my body was draining out of my feet.
On top of all that, my ex showed up at my house, begging to see the children. I slammed the door in his face, called the police, and then called my lawyer. It seemed there was no need for a restraining order. He’d visited the walking vagina first, wanting to share her home again. She’d yelled at him, “You’re pathetic. I’ve found a man who’s actually good in bed.” In turn, he punched her in the face…in front of a witness. She didn’t tell him that her new boyfriend was the sheriff.
How do you break it to your children that their dad owed $50,000 in back child support and was going to spend the next 5 years in jail? No child deserves that kind of pain. At least one good thing came out of it. My lawyer needed a part-time legal secretary. The pay wasn’t very good, but it would help me hone my skills and give me the experience I needed for a full-time job when the kids were older.
I spent the next 3 years learning more about the legal system, while my ex-husband made license plates. I received a small check each month, his contribution toward child support, but I knew that in 2 years he’d be knocking on my door again.
During those 3 years learning the legal system, I made the mistake of going to a therapist, at a cost of $100 a session. He made the mistake of diagnosing me with depression. Okay, so my mother had died, my ex had left me for another woman, and my youngest had the explosive capabilities of a hydrogen bomb. If I was down, I had a good reason.
The anti-depressants didn’t help. They just made me sleepy. Did you know that stuff can rob you of 10 IQ points? Maybe that’s why I continued to pay out $400 a month plus the cost of medication for 2 years. Then there were the blood tests, and an MRI.
Being a naïve fool is not something you want to put on your resume.
Now I had a diagnoses of “mental illness” and could only afford to live on $2000 a month for 8 years instead of 9. My children were 9, 11 & 13, my worthless ex-husband was about to be released from prison, and the bastard wanted to see “his” children. I said no, and pointed out the restraining order. But it was during an insane time when there was a soft and cuddly approach toward poor unfortunate felons.
Monty didn’t want anything to do with him. Muriel was mildly interested. Millie insisted on seeing her father. Because of the latter, Monty, Muriel and I sat in an arbitrator’s office as if we were at a funeral. My ex, his eyes as hard as his biceps, demanded, “Why won’t you allow me to visit my children?”
Monty and Muriel, frightened of the anger in his voice, cuddled next to me. Millie held her arms out for a hug. It was like watching one of those computers on a science fiction program that’s trying to think. He calculated the best approach, determined his strategy…not an ounce of love involved. He held his arms out, smiled like a grinch, and gently hugged her.
Of course the arbitrator thought it was the cutest thing this side of a kitten sleeping next to a rat.
Then Millie said, “Mom’s pressed cause of you.”
“What does she mean by pressed?” My ex asked.
I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don’t know.”
Back home again, saddled with an order for weekly visitations at the arbitrator’s office, I immediately erased my answer phone messages. How could I be rid of a mental health diagnosis that would effectively allow my rat of an ex back into our lives. At my next appointment, I told my therapist I wasn’t coming back, my bill was paid up, and never to send mail or call me. If my ex-husband showed up at his office, he was advised to tell him nothing.
My lawyer fought the weekly visits, turning them into a monthly lunch at a local restaurant. Their dad had a job now, construction work. But I’d caught him stalking the lawyers office on his days off, following me when I went shopping with the kids…trying to find a weakness, a way to get my children away from me.
In 1986, when my oldest was 15, I changed to a younger medical doctor. The new one studied my history – normal periods until after the 3rd child, then symptoms of depression. He ordered a thyroid test and said, “Did you know that hypothyroid disease can mimic depression?”
Unfortunately, my ex-husband had another talent – finding vulnerable women and exploiting them. He started dating the plain, dumpy receptionist in the doctor’s office and offered to marry her if she’d tell him one tiny thing. What was I seeing the doctor for?
I was summoned to a hearing, my lawyer by my side. This time, I was smart.
I listened as my ex told the heartbreaking story about how I was such a bad wife, how I had the money to care for the needs of myself and my children and yet I continued to bleed him of every cent I could get. Most important, he wanted to get his children away from his mentally ill wife. A heart wrenching, compelling story that might fool an arbitrator…but I had the facts, and my doctors had been subpoenaed.
First, I explained that he’d cheated on me, I was awarded alimony and child support by the court, and asked if he was questioning a judge’s order.
“You’re mentally ill,” he said. “I have a good job and want the best for my kids.”
“Does she suffer from depression?” The judge asked my former therapist.
“I thought so at first, then her ex-husband came to my office demanding to see her records. I told him to leave or I’d call the police. He tried to seduce my receptionist. She reported it to me. After my experiences with him, I don’t believe she has depression. I believe she has every right to be concerned for her safety and her family.”
The judge asked my medical doctor the same question. He chuckled and said, “Her therapist mis-diagnosed her. She’s hypothyroid. Few people are strong enough to have that burden on them, hold a job and raise three children.”
My son raised his hand, as if he were in school, and the judge asked, “You have something to say?”
“I was 5 when my dad left us. He used to call me a sissy and say I was a disappointment. He smelled like alcohol and yelled at mom a lot. She was always kind. I don’t like it when I have to visit him.”
“You’ve turned my only son against me!” My ex yelled out.
I stepped in front of my son, blocking him from a potential threat. “Your honor, I’d like a restraining order preventing him from coming within 100 feet of my home, my children or me.”
“This isn’t over,” he said with a menacing whisper.
“He’s threatening my client,” my lawyer said. “He spent 5 years in prison for hitting another woman and he’s still on probation.”
Millie walked up to him, tiny fists raised, looked into his eyes with the same fierce anger as her father’s, and said, “You’re being mean to my mommy!”
She kicked him in the shin with her wooden clip-clop shoes, then strutted away. That was enough to trigger her father’s temper. He grabbed her arm, lifting his other hand to slap her.
It took 2 men to subdue him, but the best part came when he was convicted of attempted child abuse. He spent another 5 years in prison.
In the year 1992, my children were 17, 19, and 21. I watched my son graduate with his B.S. in engineering. I stood next to a 3 year old child holding his father’s hand and waited for Monty to meet me at the entrance in his cap and gown. We had planned to celebrate his accomplishment at a restaurant, but that had to wait. I froze at the sight of a man with salt and pepper hair, his muscles still toned, coming toward us from the parking lot.
“Monty. It’s your sperm donor,” I said, gulping.
Millie and Muriel, their dark brown hair shimmering in the sunlight, were busy talking to several boys from high school who were there to see their older brothers or sisters graduate. Thankfully, they stayed busy while we took care of this problem.
The same height as Monty, he stared into his eyes and said, “I’m so proud of my son!”
“You’re not my father. He is,” Monty said, pointing at my lawyer. “He’s been kind to us and allowed mom to have us in the office when she couldn’t find a sitter. He was at our birthday parties every year, and moved in with mom when I was 14. Mom married him a few months after you went to jail the second time. He adopted us. We took his last name and never looked back.”
I pointed to the 3 year old by my side and said, “This is my youngest son, Jeremy. My husband and I are having a daughter, Jessie, in 6 months. Afterwards, I’m getting my tubes tied. That’s what a woman does when she’s found the right man and had enough children.”
They say you can see it when a person cracks, it’s like watching a hard-boiled egg drop to the ground. What’s inside is still intact, but the shell that surrounded it shatters. Two police officers were there at his side the second he tried to throw the punch at me. They were in the courtroom while he stared into space, oblivious to the judge’s pronouncement that he was to spend his life in a mental institution.
But the ball game of life has a habit of throwing curve balls at you.
The first month of 2017, my husband and I were enjoying a game of golf in our new gated community when he got the call. “Your ex was released into a group home for people with mental illness. His roommate heard him mutter as he walked out the door that he was going to kill the bitch that ruined his marriage.”
“Who in their right mind would let that man out of lockup?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” my husband said. “All I can tell you is that he chose the wrong bitch to blame. He’s going after Millie.”
Both of us laughed, tears running down our eyes. Yes, he’d found her in the phone book, and yes, he knew where she lived. He didn’t know she had 3 black belts, was a sharp shooter and a former Master Sergeant now a member of a SWAT team.
“Jeremy is a lawyer, Muriel is a detective, and Jessie is getting her doctorate in psychology,” My husband said. “They’re in Millie’s living room, she’s holding a shotgun, and they swear they’ll testify it was self-defense. Millie said, ‘the sperm donor is cracked and I’m about to turn his brains into scrambled eggs.’ He doesn’t have a flies chance in a lizards cage.”
“Yep. I raised some fine kids,” I said, hitting the golf ball to make my first hole-in-one.
© joelle LeGendre